Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Identifying and Reconstructing Common Cold Misconceptions among Developing K-12 Educators

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Identifying and Reconstructing Common Cold Misconceptions among Developing K-12 Educators

Article excerpt

Background: Common cold misconceptions may contribute to ill-informed decisions and recommendations made by K-12 educators who often encounter infected students. Understanding the structure of educators' misconceptions can be used to improve health instruction in teacher professional preparation programs. Purpose: The purposes of this project were to (1) identify prevalent common cold misconceptions held by preservice educators and (2) test the effectiveness of a refutational text meant to promote the adoption of scientifically appropriate common cold conceptions. Study 1: An assessment concerning the common cold was completed by 44 preservice teachers. Misconceptions, such as cold weather triggering the common cold, were prevalent. Study 2: A total of 86 participants completed the same assessment as used in study 1 before and after reading a common cold refutational text. Participants demonstrated gains in scientifically appropriate common cold conceptions. Discussion: Identifying common cold misconceptions among preservice teachers can be used to build instructional materials (i.e., refutational text). Translation to Health Education Practice: Teacher preparation programs and health educators may find it useful to identify common cold misconceptions prior to instruction as a way of confirming the underlying structure of their students' misconceptions and utilize refutational texts to facilitate reconstruction of students' common cold conceptions.

BACKGROUND

Children may experience 6 to 10 colds each year, (1) and 55 million school-aged children are enrolled in some form of formal education. (2) According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 20 million school days are lost annually due to the common cold. (3) As ubiquitous as the common cold is, however, misconceptions about what causes the common cold remain abundant.

Teachers' conceptions about what causes the common cold can influence how they respond to infected students, execute procedures that reduce the spread of cold viruses, and/or educate their students and their parents/caregivers on appropriate preventive behaviors. Many educators entering today's classrooms may hold misconceptions about the common cold, which can result in misinformed decisions. For example, an educator who believes that colds are caused by bacteria can potentially support recommendations for treating infected students with antibiotics. (4,5)

The purposes of this project were to identify the most prevalent misconceptions among developing K-12 educators and test the effectiveness of a refutational text meant to promote the adoption of scientifically appropriate common cold conceptions. We believe that our investigation can inform teacher professional preparation to prepare future teachers to deal with the common cold.

Common Cold Misconceptions

The common cold is a contagious viral infectious disease of the upper respiratory system primarily caused by a category of viruses called rhinoviruses. Muha (6) estimated that Americans will suffer about 1 billion colds annually, with most adults likely suffering from 1 to 2 colds every year. Some people, however, may falsely believe that the cold can be caught only once a year. This misconception may be rooted in other inaccurate beliefs about the common cold. A scientifically appropriate conceptualization of the common cold includes the understandings:

* There are more than 200 viruses that cause colds. These strains undergo constant mutations, making a single vaccine for the common cold ineffective. (7)

* Due to the variation in viruses and variation in individuals' immune systems, some individuals may have severe symptoms and some individuals may have no symptoms. (1)

* More colds occur during the winter likely because more people spend time indoors, in closer proximity to others (thereby increasing the chance of viral transmission).

* Colds can be contracted throughout the year; however, many individuals might misdiagnose themselves as having allergies instead during the summer months. …

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